One year on

US ambassador to Luxembourg: 5 lessons that drive my priorities

Ambassadeur des états unis, US Ambassador Tom Barrett Guy Wolff/Maison Moderne

Ambassadeur des états unis, US Ambassador Tom Barrett Guy Wolff/Maison Moderne

One year into his tenure as US ambassador to Luxembourg, Thomas Barrett shares his lessons learned in a year that has had many unexpected challenges.

Two weeks after I began my tenure as the US Ambassador to Luxembourg, Vladimir Putin launched his brutal full-scale invasion of Ukraine, an event that dramatically shifted the geopolitical landscape.  For many of us, this global crisis defined 2022 and its hard lessons are driving my priorities for the year ahead.

Lesson one: The most important point of all is the paramount importance of unity within the NATO alliance. The Allies have remained resolute in their support of Ukraine, and together we have implemented our most comprehensive overhaul of collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War. This conflict is underscoring the fragility of freedom and the need to do more to protect it.

Luxembourg pledged to reach 1% of GDP in defense investment by 2028. Defense spending is an investment in freedom and democracy. Yet, Luxembourg is falling far behind other Allies. By 2022, 27 Allies spent more than double Luxembourg's 0.58% of GDP and Luxembourg’s total investment in NATO was also among the lowest. The past year has demonstrated the risks of not investing in defense.  In the coming year, I welcome opportunities to work with the government of Luxembourg to find constructive ways to collaborate on common defense.

Lesson two: Human rights need to remain at the center of our foreign policy. The year has shown that human rights violations by regimes in Russia, the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Iran necessitate a strong response from the international community. The United States and Luxembourg have acted together at the UN Human Rights Council to hold autocratic regimes to account. For example, together we have condemned the PRC’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang. The upcoming Summit for Democracy will present additional opportunities to draw attention to the collective actions of democracies in the face of autocratic challenges.

Lesson three: Transparency and rule of law are paramount. The economic and national security risks associated with the global presence of firms controlled by governments like the PRC who lack transparency and rule of law are serious. The United States is counting on businesses at home and abroad to pursue growth responsibly and evaluate risk. Values and long-term competitive advantages cannot be sacrificed. I look to work with the Luxembourg private sector and the government to further transparency, counter abusive economic practices and ensure human rights remain preeminent in economic gain.

Lesson four: The climate crisis is the paramount issue of our time. We must do more. The United States and Luxembourg share a commitment to addressing climate change, which I aim to advance this year. President Biden rejoining the Paris Climate Accords and legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act are key steps in combatting the climate crisis and promoting clean energy investment. Combining approaches from both sides of the Atlantic can enable us to meet our climate commitments as well as create transformative business opportunities for both economies.

Lesson five: Our values are our strength. One of my most solemn duties is honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom during World War II.  Witnessing the gratitude Luxembourg shows for the American troops who liberated Europe in WWII is humbling. Together we must continue to ensure future generations also understand our shared history and the ultimate price of freedom.  

I have learned that when Luxembourg and the United States are invested together, the sky’s the limit! I look forward to fostering more strong partnerships in the coming year